Doug Mitchell, author, successful entrepreneur, geo-arbitrageur and author of the just-published The Multi Thread Marketer: How to Hire One or Better Yet Be One was guest on my radio show recently. You can listen here.
In 2007 Doug founded a Virtual Multimedia Marketing Agency called createWOWmedia which he sold in 2010.
Doug currently is VP of Marketing at BirdDogJobs, an innovative 14 year old company who recently received venture funding to rebrand, relaunch, and dominate.
Doug holds a PhD in BizWizardry and is a full-time faculty member at the Secret School of Business.
Doug! Thanks for writing a great book!
Hey, man. It’s my pleasure. Thanks for having me on today.
Why now? What compelled you to write this book now?
Well, I’ve been working with and speaking to businesses for years. A lot of that started when I got to Iowa and I had a little more flexibility to do it.
I ask the same question to every group and every business I work with. I say:
“At the end of the day, where do you look for people, places, products, services?”
And 100% of them will scream out:
Right? And then I’ll follow with the question:
“How many of you have a tangible plan?”
And if we’re lucky I’ll get 2 out of that 100. 2 out of a hundred have a tangible plan to access those people who are searching or looking.
I’ve lived the results of what those multi-thread marketing can do for companies and accelerate growth and remove pain and blow the doors off.
I wrote the book so people out there today who are asked that question, and I know if you are out there listening now or recorded you say:
“Well of course. I google everything”.
But do you have a tangible plan to get there. And until I get 90% or better, that’s why I wrote the book.
You dedicated your book to those with the courage to ASK. I loved that dedication. But, let me ask, why? Why that dedication? What role does that courage play with multithread marketing?
It’s huge. In my life and career it’s simply that Ask for help or guidance or mentoring that has guided my success. Asking is what separates typically from the movers and doers from the ponderers and I-wishers.
You have to have the courage to ask. Why am I hiring a marketing person? A lot of businesses that I encounter and work with want to hire someone. Do you know what you’re really looking for? Or, do you know what’s needed to compete today?
Without asking yourself those solid questions it’s very difficult to become that multithread marketer.
I think that life in general is run by the people who have the courage to ask for resource or assistance they need. If somebody doesn’t ask for the venture capital they need then they don’t get it. If they don’t ask somebody to come work for them, then they don’t get it.
I try to be that person who asks. Over and over again, it’s proven that that is a requirement for someone to do what I do. That is multithread.
Beautiful. That’s a great answer.
My friend, Erika Andersen, coined a phrase and question in her book Being Strategic, I use in nearly all my interview. The phrase is reasonable aspiration or hoped-for future. And the question is:
"What is your reasonable aspiration or hoped-for future? What was yours with writing this book?”
Well, in the context of the book, my hoped-for future is that it becomes a textbook in the future for students in high school to grad school. Maybe, even grade school to grad school; it has a ring to it.
My ad hoc surveys and own experience with my kids tells me we’re not anywhere near challenging our greatest assets, our children; that’s our future. We’re not giving them the power to ask why and go test crazy innovation online.
You know, like MBAs, many of them come out knowing very little about the trench warfare marketing that is the landscape today. Our good friend Mike Wagner pointed out an article and stat that blows me away from IBM. Basically they’re saying within 5 years from now 50% of their revenues will come from sources that have no idea exist today.
That’s quite a churn for revenue. My hoped-for future is that we have plenty of multithread marketers coming out of schools, no matter what level.
In the context of me, my hoped-for future is to continue to write a series of ebooks and crest over the hump so that I’m writing, speaking and angel investing every day.
We’re trying that out. The first baby steps are the Secret School of Business. We can talk about that later. Multithreading is core to that.
Being the excellent marketer that you are, this next question should be easy to answer. What are the metrics you'll use to measure your progress towards these goal?
For me, book sales would be nice. But, having teachers and educators reach out to me from all different levels. Having people ask me to come and talk to them about multithreading and the future of education.
And, of course, always top-line revenues. So, revenues for the book would be a key measure.
But, the big thing I want out of this is to have educators and those in charge of our future say:
Whether you could apply multi-threading across the board into many different skillsets. The economy is moving too fast and people need to get comfortable with this. Having academia reach out would be the biggest metric.
I’d like to see that start happening ASAP.
Now. What's the biggest, most common, error businesses make when they define marketing?
Hmmm. Well, frankly, what I see is this.
"Marketing is graphic design."
I see it over and over again.
Marketing is a brochure. Marketing is a few good web pages, online brochure. Or marketing is ranking first for a search term.
That’s the way most small businesses define marketing. It’s what you see or produce. That’s a big, big, problem. I see it all over the place.
Is it from convenience or a long line of intellectual mistakes that business owners endure this misunderstanding?
It’s the way things have been done.
We’re in this awesome transition period. It’s awesome if you’re comfortable with this calamity that is trying to attract attention and keep it and engage it.
But that’s the history of marketing. Create a message and the brilliance of that ad campaign or whatever, will drive people to engage with you. And it simply doesn’t work.
We’re seeing the banner ad for example, while they still exist, I’ve heard plenty of big time media companies told me they are dead as a door nail.
It’s just that things have changed so fast over the last couple of years.
Think back 5 years. Blogging was still a little bit new. It was technology people and leaders who were blogging. And in that short period of time we’ve seen Facebook become bigger than a country. Twitter emerge....It’s ridiculous how much stuff has gone on.
We’re still stuck with companies that have a great product, a great market, a great idea who are still stuck doing things the old way because that’s what they knew people were doing a few years ago.
How does a multithread marketer help correct that misunderstanding?
If we come at this from a position of saying:
“Your goal of marketing should lead to a conversion.”
That’s my idea of how to correct it.
What does conversion mean to you? It might be:
- “buy my stuff”; click and buy online.
- “fill out a form and become a lead and let me market to you more closely.
- “an email sign-up.”
But I think plenty of businesses don’t see conversion as the goal. They see creating the piece or the site or the message as the goal.
“Look what we did. We created...THAT.”
THAT is merely a means to an end. The goals are sales or interest, you know, commitment to take that next step.
It’s a fundamental redefining of what is marketing.
How do you define marketing? I think you just did.
I summarized it by saying:
“It’s generating and capturing demand by capturing sweetspot customers and adapting to remain relevant.”
The shorter version of that is:
“Look. Capture demand and convert it. And do it forever.”
Your definition takes power from the brand and gives it to the consumer, customer, even the prospect. Merriam-Webster defines marketing as a transitive verb with the first definition being to offer. But then the 2nd definition says to entangle or entrap in or as if in a snare.
And by your saying adapting to that customer implies the brand is the one being ensnared by the customer.
Does that definition upset a lot of marketers?
I suppose it might. I don’t know if enough marketers are engaged and listening enough to be upset about it. Things have changed so rapidly that a massive percentage of marketers out there in the workplace are behind on this.
And whether it upsets you or not is irrelevant. This is a fact. The brand is largely driven by the market. Whether it’s a social tool or online, they’re going to craft based on what they see. They don’t want to be sold anything anymore.
And if you’re uncomfortable with that as a marketer....we have to meet the demands of the consumers. We have to engage with them and give them a reason to do business with us.
I don’t see how that could ever be a problem. I love it.
I loved your discussion of the shift for businesses when they look for talent looking for someone who knows everything to someone who can find answers to everything.
Why is that so critical to marketing and multithread marketing?
Yeah. I think there’s so much out there to consume. I know these great big thought leaders out there have 500 rss feeds and they keep up on this and that. There’s too many people out there who are far better than I who, are far better at doing these pieces of this equation.
I think we have to utilize the abundance of specialized talent that’s available in the market out there. I think we have to become more of a strategic ring-leader. I think that’s the value of marketing leadership, of having a leader who can harness the power of 10 different resources or 10 different threads and do it on budget.
Lots of the stuff I do simply could not be executed if I had to rely on staff who knows how to do it. I’d have to have too many people. It’s too specialized.
bottomline: know where to find resources and get comfortable with saying:
“I don’t know.”
And, you’ll win.
Beautiful! Can I use that phrase strategic ringleader? I’ll give you credit.
Of course, you can.
What are the component parts of a multithread marketer?
I would say at the very least the Table of Contents gives that. Anyone can get that. And three free chapters. I’ll give you the website. Multithread Marketing. Anyone can the Table of Contents and 3 Free Chapters.
To summarize I would tell you this:
“Multithreaders type fast; they write well. And they understand how to utilize collaboration software. And they know enough about the greatest technologies available today to set expectations and manage the outcomes and know what to pay for those.”
And that, really, beside the list which is some 20-odd chapters long, if you type fast, write good and you know how to use software to multiply your effectiveness online and you know what tools are out there and what they should cost and you can manage those through to the end cost....you’ll be the winner.
What's GoogleJuice? If a company says it three times in a row will it bring their marketing out of grey, netherworld?
Don’t tell anyone at a small company to say it or they might ruin their day three-times fast.
For me, it’s their presence online. If somebody is invisible online and they want to be a marketer, well that just doesn’t sit well. GoogleJuice to me would be what results do you get online and you dig a little deeper. If your name is John Smith, you’re going to have a heckuva time ranking; I get that. But, if you search my name you’ll probably get quite a few first page results. If you click over to video you’ll see most of the results for me. And then, it just goes on and on.
That’s GoogleJuice. Marketers need to have it.
I loved your advice about Using Web Analytics to Test and Launch Business. Can we make that plural, Businesses?
I probably have one or two things a week that I think of, that I have to to pull myself back on to fit itself in my queue to start something. Whether it’s a project, a business, or just simply going to remain a personal passion.
I always think it’s a good idea to sit down and think about if your passion or your idea has a likelihood of a niche business or some greater potential.
So, if you start using ads and long-tail, like 3 and 4, word keyword combinations and landing pages, quickly built landing pages, using a tool like Unbounce a fantastic tool, you can find out quickly if people are willing to join your tribe or quest. Or if there’s not enough people to simply engage that certain thing.
I’ve got a bunch of examples of this. But a recent one, that my friend Andy Brudtkuhl came up with this concept called Lightbulb to Launch. But in a weekend he came up with an idea that went from a great idea for a niche he saw from researching keyword, setting up a website, started collecting email addresses and placing some ads and literally going live over a weekend. That particular instance is going well.
I’ve had plenty that have just fizzled and become just another idea, another landing page that’s sitting there, just in case it becomes another thing sitting there in a year or 18 months or 2 years.
Where does crowdsourcing come into this process?
It’s a great way to get a pulse.
I’m working on something with Andy as well that really flips supply and demand on its head and of course generates a transaction as well. Our very first step is going to be putting some tools in place and taking it out to the greater universe and saying “what if”? If you have a good network and are active and you have invested in your social network as well, you can get those answers pretty darn quick. So far the responses are good.
But we need to back up it up with some data, some research data, as well.
Mentors? Why mentors in MultiThread Marketing? Is it possible to have mentors and multithread marketers as well?
I would hope that I could be a mentor for somebody, as well, who would want to get that complete package. I could do that since I wrote the book about it.
I think you’ll find it more likely that people have pieces out there. It’s not that you’ll find people out there who have 12 different technologies. It’s more about the fact the perspective. If you ask you can find people who have been there, done that and are eager. You know, look around for the people who have the life you want. I think a big component is find the people who have the income you’d like to have and then reach out.
I’d say mentors have given me the unique perspective and cut decades off of my learning curve. All it is, it just comes back to asking.
We've reached the imagination moment in our show. Let's imagine President Obama has been listening. And he's calling you right after the show.
"Doug", he says on your answering machine. "Look, thank you for profiling Mr. Siroker and his success in my 2008 campaign. Another area we might have overlap is our understanding the need for stronger communication skills among our students. You write that your two favorite courses were typing and debating. They developed your strong communication skills that have served you well.
What if you and wife came out to the WH and met with Michelle and I. We'd want to hear your 3 ways we can instill the same strong communication skills in our students today.”
What would be those 3 things?
First of all I’d probably have to have it over cheeseburgers. I think the President likes cheeseburgers. So, we’d have some common ground there.
I probably have to say I’d take a little different approach on this one.
Let’s figure out a plan how to get out of the way and let states innovate 100% in education. Forgetting partisan stuff I think we have a big education problem and the feds aren’t going to solve it. That’s number one.
Number two and number three, I’d say just repeat number one. Here’s why. Nobody knows what really is happening at the state level and they can’t move quick enough for me here in the state of Iowa. If there’s anything I’d magically transform I’d take it down to the current Governor here in Iowa and say
“Make your administration about education. Get a group of people who are doing, executing. Not thinking and writing academically and trying to make decisions for everybody. And then let’s run with it.”
At the end of the day our kids are so much smarter than we give them credit for, right? My kids could do 100x more than the classes are teaching him. It’s not the classroom’s fault. It’s the system. But I think it’s our responsibility as parents and concerned citizens to create greatness in our economy and children.
We have to dismantle our system and learn how to create and think. So, if I had to craft a list of three, I’d probably have to say:
Here’s my book. I think these are the skills that people need to compete today. I don’t even touch on the things like innovation and creativity. There are hundreds of books on that.
I’d say let’s share the cheesburger.
And get out of the way of the state and see what we can do.
I like it, especially the idea of getting together the doers and getting everybody to debate it and talk about and argue about it. Finding solutions and talking about the ones that work.
If there was one, if I ever ran for say Governor of the state of Iowa, my campaign would be on breaking everything you think works. The first thing would be education.
As much as possible, especially if the economy is a little bit simpler, then I’d say make it 100% about education and what we’re going to do to transform and this state into a shining example of what’s possible by using real people, not academics, not PhDs, not propeller-heads sitting there trying to develop curricula for my kid. It doesn’t make any sense ‘cause we’re not teaching them what they need which is innovate and understand that our economy is moving too fast for you to grasp everything. Get good at discovery.
Get good at saying
I don’t know, but I’ll find out.
Governor Doug Mitchell. Got a ring to it.
I’m going to go buy that domain name now that you’ve said it.
Let's talk about social media. That seems like a perfect match, threads of conversations as they're sometimes called in social media and multithread marketer.
What's the fuss with social media and measuring its ROI?
Well, you know the social media as a catch phrase, and by the way that’s the title of the last chapter of the book. And I tortured over that title and I didn’t want it to be just another book on the greatness of Twitter.
But, measuring ROI has traditionally been one of those things that people have just skipped over saying things like:
“It’s all about the engagement.”
“It’s all about the message and connecting.”
And then at the end of the day you have 10,000 followers and no sales.
At the end of the day I tend to focus on the ROI of social media in the following way:
“We’re in business to sell a particular product or service, make money, sustain, do well for ourselves, our investors, our families and communities, our churches...whatever that might be. We’re in the business to make money and remember that at every step of the way we need to measure true conversion from these tools.”
I believe it is possible that we can measure it; some of it is a little gray. You have to keep your eye on the ball and always be measuring in terms of conversion. What is this among the many tools we can use to market ourselves and what is it doing for me for real?
I was going through your book as we talked and you list a couple of very good case studies and profiles of companies who got it right. One was about a florist.
Yes. That would be Boesen the Florist (Page 91), an 85-year old company.
Here’s how it worked. They said
“We don’t know what we don’t know. But we think you can solve this problem”
My first question was:
“Well, what do you want out of this?
“I want 10 new sales a week....”
And, I say:
“Ok. You’re in the top 5 % of companies who know what they want. Who in your company will be responsible once we’re done setting this up?”
And they answered:
“We absolutely don’t have anybody. In all likelihood, it would die on the vine without somebody’s help.”
Those two things right there put them in the top of the heap. And today, it continues to be wildly successful, the online exposed them to a fresh new batch of people I think it was under-35, I mentioned it in the case study.
Bottomline, they embraced it. They knew the outcomes they wanted. They understood they couldn’t do it on their own. And Andrew who bought WOWMedia continues to do so.
There are many reasons listeners should get your book. The book is worth getting just for the Boesen Case Study. Very clear. Very crisp. It goes into the ROI, which is fantastic, and explains how it’s fairly simple and doable. And if it can be done for a wedding photographer, it can be done for almost any type of business?
Is that pretty accurate to say or is it too much hyperbole?
I think the only qualifier I firmly believe in is that B2C is easier. You can offer deals and that’s not all of it. But it is a part of it. B2B services are a little more complicated.
Could any retail business...in the nation download that case study and use it. I’d say absolutely. The lessons run parallel and across the board.
What blogging platforms do you recommend?
I used Typepad very early on. And I continue to have that for a personal blog. But I don’t give it any more attention. I’ve been lazy in trying to migrate things.
But I would exclusively recommend the hosted version of WordPress to anyone who is serious about blogging and using it as a platform to grow and attract people. There are other alternatives. For business, I wouldn’t do it. WordPress.org.
You must be called a social media guru...?
That is going away over time as I have expressed displeasure with it. Any time I hear “marketing guru” or “social media guru”....The way I defined it was anybody who got fired from a marketing job became a social media guru even up to about 2 years ago.
People started hiring back. And all of a sudden you stopped seeing people writing at coffee shops.
It’s kinda going down a bit. I guess they call me that now. But it’s much more infrequent. Now, I guess, they just call me Doug.
God bless you for writing Clicks for the sake of clicks are meaningless. Why is that still so difficult for so many businesses to understand?
“Clicks for the sake of clicks” is so pervasive. I think, you know, at the end of the day there is still ...”traffic numbers” that’s a key metric that’s a relic. If I told you I got 10,000 page views...Wow!Well, what are the sales? Zero. Ok. And if I said I got 100 unique page views and what were the sales. I got 50.
Well, anybody would say:
“Wow. I’ll take the one with the sales.”
It’s a relic of the way things used to be. If you had eyeballs you won the game. And that is so not the case today.
Lots of big businesses have figured that out because they have massive budgets. And it translates down to small businesses who still think eyeballs mean something.
If you said there are 500,000 people a month searching for ‘social media guru’, I’d rather have 500 of them searching for ‘social media strategy roi’ that were in Des Moines and I was able to close...10 of them.
It’s just a relic. They need this book to wake them up. They need a slap. Marketers aren’t trained like that.
Let’s talk about your Secret School of Business.
It’s early stages. I’m working on it heavily with Mr. Michael C. Wagner. The concept stems from...he is so dynamic and into innovation and creativity and getting leaders to confront the leadership they need and they are already there inside their companies and you just gotta give them tools and get out of the way.
Well, when you combine that with the concepts I live in every day and the multithread concepts and the skillsets, we both identified that people are craving education and getting out of the box they’re in. But there’s not a real clear way to do that.
And, we said:
- Should we start holding classes in person?
- Should we hold online classes?
And we’ve tossed around a bunch of stuff. And we’re about to launch our first big seminar, workshop. It’s going to be on a multithread topic and it’s going to be on Google Adwords and Pay-Per-Click which is huge and hugely misunderstood.
It’s going to be in May and I’ll give you the details on that.
It may be adults should go this route. We started to think we should go the K-12 route. There’s no reason my 8 year old should not know how to edit green screens in iMovie. By the time he graduates high school, imagine what things will be like in 10 years. And people are still graduating without these skills in innovation in their brains. To me, that’s tragic.
The big WHY is far more important that the How. And we know why and how it will happen will be on its own.
What would you say is your reasonable aspiration or hoped-for future with the Secret School of Business?
Well, I would hope that it becomes a platform rather than a course. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of secret school organizations around. Profit is profit-motive and of course everybody likes to money; that’s a good thing. But, there’s more to it.
We don’t need permission to break the way the system is working right now. If enough people join the secret school or whatever the organization is called and say “We’re not going to do this anymore. We’re going to find a way and your world is going to be turned upside down. You can either come with us or you can fight us all the way.”
I’d close with this:
Give your children the chance to do 100 times more than they are and they will exceed your expectations.
Leaders are readers. Jim Rohn said that. I just love to quote him. You're a leader and an avid reader. What are you reading for fun and work these days? In your free time?
I’ll tell you what, reading is a discipline I'm trying to instill fully. Audible books is a great savior in that area. I listen religiously to a podcast called Skeptoid. I’m sure Brian Dunning wouldn’t mind the promotion. It happens every Tuesday and lasts for about 12 minutes.
I’m reading Dead or Alive by Tom Clancy, trying to get out of reading business books. Trying to get a little more pleasurable reading in there.
Got the John Adams abridged biography which is 30 hours on tape.
The Mesh by Lisa Gansky. It’s relatively good. It talks about mesh businesses that rely on interconnected businesses.
That’s what I’m playing with right now.
And in between I can’t help waking up at 3 or 4 in the morning and start cranking. And in between I do things with you. Thank you.
Where can we find you on the web?
You can find me at my WordPress-based hub which is Douglas E. Mitchell. That’ll give you the gateway into everything that is Doug.
There’s a specific landing page for thebook, go figure, Multithread Marketing. Anybody can grab free chapters, sample the book and if you decide you want the book there’s a big orange button to buy the book and help my Amazon rank.
I encourage everybody to go buy this book. I read 1 or 2 business books a week. This is one of the best books I’ve read because it’s well-written, it’s smart, it’s well-organized and it’s written from the heart of experience. AND, it’s imminently doable. All the things you share are things people can grasp, understand, share, and begin to see some really positive results for their business.
This is the kind of education that’s required for most businesses to revolutionize their marketing. I think the book is a great starting point. It certainly is digestible, readably and it’s what I call airplane length.
This is a why book. And the why is way more important than the how.